SPANISH FORK — It takes regular gasoline, can travel 75 mph on the freeway and stays cool inside with efficient air conditioning.
It can also break down the doors to a business, withstand gunfire and evacuate children from a school plagued by an active shooter. And it looks like something you might see in the parking lot at Costco.
Utah County's new SWAT vehicle, somewhat disguised in a Ford van, replaces the old, lumbering 1950s armored vehicle nicknamed "the pig."
Since the county got the van roughly two months ago, it's already seen action eight times, most recently Monday night during a domestic situation that ended peacefully.
Officers also used it Sunday night in a standoff in Santaquin that ended when the man pointed a gun at officers and was fatally shot.
"You can't take the danger out of SWAT work," said Utah County Metro SWAT Sgt. Shaun Bufton. "SWAT work is SWAT work. But to minimize the risk for our guys? That's what we need."
The first safety feature is an inner skeleton of thick B6 steel armor, which deflects any gunfire.
There's also a patent-pending front bumper that can break through locked doors and allow the van to drive into the middle of the chaos.
There are bulletproof glass windows, tires that can still roll after being riddled with bullets, and two sets of double doors with Kevlar skirts that drop down to protect legs.
The inside has lights, AC, benches that double as medical backboards, sniper ports and a video screen to allow officers to monitor what's going on outside.
This vehicle will travel to any city in Utah County where officers want extra protection, Bufton said.
"It's really safety for our community," said SWAT Lt. Shawn Chipman. "There's a much better chance of a peaceful resolution because of (being) up close."
A microphone and loudspeaker in the van will also allow for more face-to-face negotiations during standoffs or hostage situations.
The big, armor-plated idea comes from Dave Acosta, a former Las Vegas SWAT officer now living in Utah County who is a businessman and good friend of Bufton.
After seeing so many tragic school shootings, hostage situations and injured officers, Acosta thought there had to be a better way.
So he created a company designed around meeting the technology needs of law-enforcement officers and rolled out the van as its first product.
All of the special body work makes the van extremely heavy, around 10,500 pounds, and extremely expensive, around $190,000.
However, this van was a gift from Acosta, who is grateful for the county's feedback.
"It's a great piece of equipment," he said. "But how (do we) make it better?"
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